EA Sports PGA Tour Is Using Laser Scanning Helicopters and More to Deliver the Most Realistic Golf Game Yet


Some of the world’s most exclusive golf courses will appear in EA Sports PGA Tour, designed in stunning fidelity powered by the Frostbite engine.EA Sports PGA Tour is the exclusive home of the Majors, including the Masters Tournament, the PGA Championship, the U.S. Open Championship, and The Open.EA Sports PGA Tour will launch for Xbox Series X|S on March 24, 2023.

I’ve never set foot on Augusta National Golf Course, but after seeing some of the Frostbite engine-powered tech on display in the upcoming EA Sports PGA Tour, I wouldn’t be surprised if start to catch a whiff of freshly cut grass in my living room when I sit down and start playing on Xbox Series X|S on March 24.

That’s the incredible level of authenticity that the teams at EA Orlando and EA Madrid are striving to achieve with PGA Tour. Not only are they aiming to usher in the return of an iconic video game sports franchise, one with lifelike accuracy from ball physics and club types, but they want to drive home the majesty of the game and what it’s like to step foot on some of the world’s most prestigious golf courses.

To bring these to life, the team gained exclusive access to these courses and sought advice from some of the foremost geologists to help map out each course with cutting edge photogrammetry, GPS mapping tech utilizing helicopters (with lasers!), airplanes, and drones. They also conducted ground mapping and on-site photography at every course to capture the most minute details. All of this results in a magnificent-looking game.

It will launch with some of the most iconic stops on the PGA Tour, like the Island Green at TPC Sawgrass, the crazy 16th party hole at Scottsdale, Arnold Palmer’s Bayhill, and each leg of the FedEx Cup. These are what the development team are referring to as the “30 Bucket List Courses” in the game.

“We even went to New Zealand to create Tara Iti, the number two course on Golf Digest’s list of the greatest courses in the world,” says Producer Ben Ramsour. “Also on our international list is Banff Springs set in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and the Evian Resort in France. Of course, we have the trifecta of the ultimate ‘Bucket List’ courses, like The Old Course at Saint Andrews, Pebble Beach Golf Links, and the legendary Augusta National Golf Club.”

Stop and Smell the Flowers

It was at this point during our first-look demo that we saw in-game captured footage showcasing the incredible level of detail that’s possible on Xbox Series X|S, featuring a lifelike shot of Founder’s Circle at Augusta and the beautiful azalea flowers that surround this iconic course.

“Augusta’s botanist team gave us access to their tree health software to ensure we properly place every tree and [piece of] vegetation that a player will see in our game,” mentions Ramsour, as he continues to show other detailed shots like ultra-realistic looking crowds that utilize Frostbite’s swarm crowd system, and the lone cypress that stands on the cliffs of Pebble Beach.

“Our use of photogrammetry was especially useful in capturing every nook and cranny of rock formations and foliage from the real thing. At The Country Club (featured in the film, ‘The Greatest Game Ever Played’), we used a low flying helicopter to map the course,” continues Ramsour. “The chopper was equipped with a laser designed to find gold mines and oil reserves; the LiDAR and photogrammetry data is 30 times more dense than publicly available data that other games and simulators use.”

All this visual fidelity isn’t just for show either. This data helps inform all other aspects of play, which means more realistic terrain, slopes, ball behavior, and surface dynamics, ensuring players can experience these iconic courses like never before.

Let’s Go Clubbing

EA Sports PGA Tour’s Pure Strike system is powered by ShotLink, the real-time scoring system that the PGA Tour uses, and TrackMan data, which calculates ball flight measurement and swing analysis. That means players will have all the tools they need to realistically attack every hole on every course the same way the pros do — a whole new level of golf simulation that’s never really been tackled before, again thanks to the power of Frostbite on Xbox Series X|S.

“One of the most impactful ways players will interact with Pure Strike is through shot types,” explains Gameplay Designer Craig Penner. “We’re introducing 20 different shot types so now every time you approach the ball, you don’t only choose your club, but also the type of shot you want to hit. Each shot type is unique per club and trajectory so under the hood there are over 1300 unique physics profiles that power these shot types. We develop them with ShotLink and TrackMan data, so that each shot produces ball speeds, launch angles, spin rates, and shots dispersions that you would expect in real life… allowing players to attack each course and each hole just like the pros you see on TV.”

Speaking of the pros, Ramsour was also excited to share some of the work put into modeling the professional golfers you’ll see in the game.

“Our characters look absolutely stunning! We leveraged character head and body scanning tech used for Hollywood movies; our scanning rig has over 130 cameras that take simultaneous pictures. We took shots in multiple poses so that we could see the unique way the muscle on the players’ faces and bodies move, so that each athlete moves authentically to how they do in real life when rendered in Frostbite’s animation engine. The pandemic made it challenging to scan, but we were lucky enough to be included as part of the PGA Tour’s bubble so we could scan our athletes.”

Return of the King

On top of everything we saw during our first-look demo, EA Sports PGA Tour is also launching with several other robust features to make it a truly compelling package, one that also includes the LPGA Tour’s five major championships, an overhauled Create-A-Player feature, competitive multiplayer modes, and more — it seems like EA Sports PGA Tour is primed to reclaim their crown as one of the best video game golf franchises.

EA Sports PGA Tour will launch March 24, 2023, for Xbox Series X|S and will be available in two versions, Standard ($69.99) and Digital Deluxe Edition ($84.99). Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members with EA Play can save 10% on their purchase of EA Sports PGA Tour from the Microsoft Store. You can learn more about EA Sports PGA Tour here on their official site. Stay tuned here to Xbox Wire for all the latest news and previews about your favorite Xbox and Windows games.

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